Archive for March, 2014

Why I Write

Posted: March 31, 2014 in Free Writing
Tags: , ,

I’ve always loved writing. I don’t know what it is about it that I enjoy. I’m just able to communicate better on paper than I do with my mouth. My hands can keep up with my busy mind better than my lips ever could. I feel less afraid of being judged or saying something stupid. It’s a way for me to feel heard, even if no one reads what I write.

In kindergarten and 1st grade, my best friend at the time and I would sit in her basement and think of stories to tell. I would write them down, and she would draw the pictures. We would come up with these elaborate stories and spend hours brainstorming agreeing and disagreeing. Sometimes we would act it out.

Once we wrote a story about two young girls who got lost in a magical forest. It didn’t have much of a plot, however, we would go into my backyard where there were a row trees for us to explore in, then decide where the story would take us next.

I like telling stories, whether they are true or made up. Stories are how we connect with people. It’s how we get to know them. When making new friends, you tell them about your past experiences, that’s a story, more importantly, your story.

Telling someone your own story about your past is probably one of the best ways to tell someone you love them. It means that a sense of trust has been established and they are almost sharing a piece of themselves with me. I value that, which is probably why it’s often times so difficult for me open up and talk about myself. It takes a lot of time and an established sense of trust.

Sometimes, I like being a mystery too.

However, I never saw myself being a journalist until my senior year of high school. I wanted to be an author who writes long and elaborate novels that would land on the local book shelves. I wanted to go to college and major in Theology and Catechetics, graduate and get a job as a youth minister and be a freelance writer on the side until I had my big bestseller and I could quit my job and write.

But then I discovered journalism, in the most random way possible. I was okay with this sudden change of plans and joined the school newspaper. I could talk to people, learn their stories and opinions and not have to share mine. It’s okay for me to ask stupid questions for the sake of wanting a quote and gaining knowledge on something I would otherwise have no interest in.

I did an article on Franciscan’s new core. My interview with the VP of Academic Affairs ran almost an hour long, not to mention the other interviews I did with other faculty and students at Franciscan. That article gave me a new perspective on the core. I still despise it, but I understand why it was created and appreciate the education that I am getting.

I did an interview with the father of a young family who is an alum of Franciscan and won a national contest. In the middle of the interview, this man requested that I turn off my recording device and be off the record to tell me the story of how he and his family struggled economically, living with his wife’s parents with their kids struggling to afford diapers, and how sense winning the contest, they moved into an apartment and he found the courage to start his own business and be successful, allowing his wife to stay home more often with his their kids.

I was touched. He told me this story to because he trusted me and wanted me to better understand the impact that the contest had on his family to write the article with a new respect.

I write because of those moments. To hear the stories of how people got to where they are now. I write to find where people are most vulnerable and try to find a beauty in it. I write because often times the unknown stories are the best stories. I write because sometimes I’m too much of a coward to use my actual voice. And that’s okay.

It’s very rare that I know what I’m doing. Most of the time, I completely wing it and write whatever comes to mind. Rarely do I have a plan. I’m not patient enough to have a plan. Planned writing seems to concrete. It’s the free flowing writing where the best material comes. It’s why I hate editing my own stuff.

Above all, I write because I love it.

Fun fact of the day: Out of the billions and billions of people that have lived and died in the world, there are only two people who are truly without sin. They are literally Mr. and Mrs. Perfect who never do wrong. They are like that person in high school or college that you kind of secretly want to dislike, but they are so awesome and nice that you physically can’t. You sit and wonder, “Is it just me or do they just not have a bad day?”

Mary ant the Baby Jesus

Mary and the baby Jesus

Person numero uno, is my dearest confirmation saint, Mama Mary. Here’s her dirty little secret, she still suffered and had bad days. The woman carried Christ for 9 months in her womb with threats of being stoned or exiled looming over her head. She also had to watch the same child suffer and die the most painful death known to man. Jesus hung on the cross for over two hours, not to mention the hours of watching him carry the cross out of Jerusalem and watching him be beaten and humiliated by the Romans before he was sentenced to death.

The second, of course is Christ, who had a really bad day. I won’t go into detail of exactly the suffering he went through, but many theologians would argue that God chose to die on the cross during that specific era of history because it’s designed to be painful and long. The Romans found satisfaction in their victims suffering.

I’ve been Catholic my whole life and if there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that being Catholic doesn’t always feel very good. You see these saints and expect to see them dancing around a daisy field, hand in hand with God and everything is peachy all the time. We are persecuted, we are tempted, we are tried. Being Catholic is about over coming that with God in sight.

How do we overcome those sufferings? The main think that has to be done is that we have to know who God is. The journey to the Lord is the longest journey that you will ever take in your life. For most people, it takes a lifetime. I’m still working on that journey. There are good days where I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress and then days in which it feels like I’ve taken 20,000 steps in the wrong direction.

You could be a platinum member of every airline in the world and it’s still the hardest. I’m pretty sure climbing Mt. Everest is easier than the journey to Him.

But y’all, he is there with his arms wide open and ready to love you. He isn’t leaving you hanging, waiting for you to find him. The only thing keeping you from him, is you. Learn to accept him. Accept that He is real and alive and he loves you

genie-lampOne of the things that you have accept is that God is not a Genie. You can’t rub a lamp and expect him to grant all of your heart’s desire. Don’t treat him like a Genie. I tried it, and I’m here to tell y’all that it doesn’t work. He’s not a genie, he’s a lover who is only going to give you exactly what you need. He loves you so much, and sometimes, in order to grow closer to him, suffering is necessary.

When you were little, and you got a scrape, you ran home to your mom to kiss it and give you a band aid. The same thing works for God. Run to Him with all your scratches and bruises and He will kiss it and make it all better. The difference between someone who goes to Heaven or to Hell is that the ones who go to Heaven are the ones that say, “I need you, Lord. I can’t do this without you.”

Jesus is calling you to him and begging you to stop running away. He is screaming, “I know your sin; I understand your sin! I know it better than you do! Let me fix it and make you whole again!” Your sin is not too big for God. You have not seen him flex. The only sin that the Lord can’t forgive, is the one that you don’t ask forgiveness for.  No matter what you’ve done, you are not your sin or your failures. You are the sum of the Father’s love; what makes you is God’s love.

He sees your potential more than you do. He cares more about you than anyone else in the world. He thinks about you more than anyone else.  The Lord makes over 4,000 promises in the Bible . Imagine how many more he has made to each and everyone of us that aren’t documented in the Bible? One of the things He promised is that  He will not give us a pain He knows we can’t handle and overcome. He promised that when He died for us. Because He died, we don’t have to endure the same pain and suffering that he did. It’s okay to get angry at God.  He can take it and give you peace.

1003285_10151697209994742_96657247_nBut forgiveness is crucial on this journey. Because of forgiveness the person I was before is not the person I am now. It’s not the person I have to be anymore. Y’all I am endorsing the Jesus thing, I tried the Jesus thing. It works.

You can run from God. You can be the fastest runner who wins all of the Olympic Gold medals, but God can run faster. You can play hide and seek, but the Lord has had thousands and thousands of years playing hide and seek with sinners and you will loose that game. Go to confession, get your sins out in the open. People are so afraid to got to church, but  Church is not a museum for saints; it’s a hospital for sinners. You will not shock the priest because (believe it or not) he’s a sinner too.

After word vomiting all of that onto you guys, I leave y’all with one last message. If you are going to take one thing from this post, take this:

Only Jesus can turn a mess, into a message;
a test, into a testimony;
a trial into a triumph;
a victim into victory.
He is worthy to be praised.

Infinite Bandwidth: Encountering Christ in the Media by Eugene Gan

Infinite Bandwidth: Encountering Christ in the Media by Eugene Gan

I want to get one myth out of the way before I begin answering this question: The media is not bad. I think many Catholics have the wrong idea that the media is corrupting the youth and will forever change society for the worse. I may by biases when I say this as a young person and a Journalism major, but that idea is false.

The media is awesome. Its is an amazing tool that can be used to bring the world together and better the Catholic faith, is used correctly. Even Pope Francis agrees,  calling social media and the internet “a gift from God“. If the Pope says so, it’s most likely true.

So what is the mind set that Catholics can use in order to use media the right way to better themselves and the church? Dr. Eugene Gan, a communications professor at Franciscan University, very kindly put a book together that identifies this mind set.

After reading dozens of doctrine about the media dating back to when the media was born, he was able to narrow it down to seven keys. The following only comes from what I’ve read in his book, I did not come up with any of these. It’s strictly from the Catholic church.

1. Balance

Do not rely on only one organization for your media entertainment. The point is to look at a variety of outlets in order to see various mind sets.

In news, look at a variety of angles to get the truth in reporting. No matter how much a news organization claims that they aren’t biased, there always will be a little bit of bias, it’s impossible to avoid. Look at various sources to figure out what is going on in the world if you want to get the whole story.

2. Attitude Awareness

Attitude awareness means to stay informed and on top of news and media. Listen for the message that are being presented. When looking at media, try to identify the perspective and agenda that the media maker has. Seek the message that is being shown.

For example, car ads try to sell cars by promising a particular lifestyle. Usually there is a man looking a little like James Bond in the car  wearing a really nicely fitted suit driving on an open road at top speeds. He pulls up to a valet and dramatically tosses them the keys while and attractive woman stands to the side oohing the man and his car. What kind of lifestyle is the ad promoting? They are essentially saying, buy our car and you’ll get the girl and a life of luxury.

3. The Dignity of the Human Person

All media should reflect, uphold, and enhance dignity. Pope John Paul II said that the “goal of all technological progress is to make man more human“. Media should enhance one’s understanding of culture and what makes humans unique.

For example, the movie Bella is the story of a man helping a woman find her worth and preventing her from aborting her baby. It enhances the dignity of both the woman and her child.

4. Truth-filled

The media can help convey the truth about God and humanity.  Truths are that God exists, redemption is possible, good and evil exist, and that there is a moral law. Keep in mind that the media can be truthful, but not accurate. An example of this is the Chronicles of Narnia. There is no such thing as Narnia, but the books reflect Christian morals.

5. Inspiring

Media should enlighten and raise questions among its consumers. Inspires people to transcendent lives and point our way to heaven and good. It should inspire people to pursue virtue and develop a relationship with the Lord.

For example, the 1946 holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart and Donna Reed inspires its viewers. The movie is about a young man who struggles to see his importance and is visited by an angel, who shows him what the world would be like without him. It teaches people their importance and inspires them to appreciate the people around them.

6. Skillfully Developed

Media must be well done with the latest technology and talented crew in order to get people’s attention. The problem with a lot of movies and books that Christian organizations come out with is that it’s not very well made. The script is cheesy, the graphics are off, and the acting is so-so. It doesn’t matter how good the message is. If it’s poorly made, no one is going to pay attention to it.

Mumford and Sons had really grasped this key. They play very good music that is unique to them that people love, but also has a good Christian Message.

7. Motivated by and Relevant to Experience

Media should reflect our feelings, thoughts, and actions. People tend to relate to messages that tell stories. Stories touch the heartstrings and force people to listen and understand better than straight facts. It’s why sitcom shows tend to be more desirable than news shows, because a sitcom tells a story rather than presents facts.

This sounds like the most cliche example, but it’s the best example in my opinion: Jesus told parables. He was preaching to audiences of thousands. He could’ve said that the father is forgiving to all sinners, but instead, he told the parable of the Prodigal Son, who stole his inheritance from his father, fell to a life of drinking and gambling, then went home to his father who welcomed him with open arms and celebrated his return home. The story got people to listen and understand.

So that’s all 7 keys? Think it’s easy to remember all of them? It actually is! Gan was clever and came up with a really cool acronym to remember all of them. Put all the first letters of the keys together and it spells BAPTISM.

Balance
Attitude of Awareness
Person (Dignity of)
Truthfilled
Inspiring
Skillfully Made
Motivated by Experiance

Mind blown by that acronym? I was…

A few nights ago, I was sitting in Golden Corral with my family to celebrate a couple birthdays.  In my family, all the birthdays fall into a couple different parts of the year (February/March, June/July, August, and November), so around that time, the entire extended family get together for dinner to celebrate.

I had just gotten back from school for spring break the night before and was still recovering from the time change and the late night of traveling. My mom was sitting across the table from me talking to the people around us about my school. I can’t remember exactly what she said, but it was something along the lines of, “Franciscan has such a wonderful, conservative environment.”

That’s when I zoned back into the conversation and felt the need to correct her that it’s not the conservative environment that Franciscan University of Steubenville is known for, its the Catholic environment. To my mom’s credit, she was talking to my dad’s side of the family who aren’t Catholic, and have very strong conservative views, so she may have said that due to the audience, but I really felt a need to clarify this confusion:

Franciscan University is not a conservative school, it’s Catholic. YAF-logo

At the beginning of the school year, the Young America’s Foundation released a list of its Top Conservative Colleges to give young Conservatives a list of schools that will allow them to harden and deepen their conservative values. Franciscan University was on the list.  I don’t disagree with YAF’s categorizing Franciscan University, especially since it did acknowledge Franciscan’s Religious Environment. However, it’s political standing should not influence a student’s decision to go there.

Franciscan has never classified itself to one political view. As long as the Franciscan TOR friars and sisters are there, it probably never will. Some folks would argue that is does declare itself a conservative organization due to its involvement in the March for Life and opposition to the HHS mandate.

marchforlife2Franciscan sent aprox. 500 students to the 2014 March for Life earlier this January. Student’s braved the cold to march for those who couldn’t. They go every year because its students are passionate about defending every human’s right to life. They even have  a small tomb where the bodies of aborted babies have been laid to rest where students can pray and meditate.

Franciscan was also among the first universities to speak out against the HHS mandate, particularly because it forced employers to pay for late term abortions.  They even went as far as to file a federal law suit which was later dropped.

Due to both of these events, as well as many others, many have confused Franciscan for being a Conservative University. But both issues are a result of Franciscan University sticking to its Catholic identity. Students who attend Franciscan go because it is “Academically Excellent and Passionately Catholic”. Over 700 students attend daily mass and the same number join the on-campus faith households.

Steubie 007

Franciscan University Tomb of the Unborn Child where the bodies of aborted children have been laid to rest.

It just created a new core in order to help students become better informed and educated classes, requiring all students to take at least 9 credit hours on the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and on Christian Morals and Principles. The presence of the TORs is crucial in maintaining that Catholic identity that survived the 70s and 80s, unlike other Catholic institutions like University of Notre Dame, Gonzaga University, Creighton University, and Georgetown University (just to name a few).

I really encourage y’all, when discussing Franciscan University, don’t call it conservative. While it is a very conservative university with very similar ideas and missions, it’s not. It’s never identified itself as conservative. It’s Catholic. It runs based on what the Catholic Church teaches and knows is true.

Franciscan is a wonderful school that produces incredible young Catholics who are so passionate about their faith and using it for good.  Even in the seven  months I have attended, I have decided to no longer identify myself as a conservative like I did in high school. I (like Francican) am Catholic, both politically and religiously.

We all have little things that stay with us, long into our adult years. They are things that we close our eyes and remember and feel joyful and remember. For me, that image is Michelangelo’s Pieta.  Random right? I don’t know why, but it’s definitely my absolute favorite work of art.

I remember visiting my Grandparents in small town Nebraska as a little girl. I always got so excited to visit my grandparents because of how simple life was. Everybody in the town knew and loved each other. People went to church every Sunday and attended the high school football game on Friday. It was okay to show up to someone’s house unannounced, they would always have a baked good and a glass of water prepared.

One special treat I got to enjoy while visiting them was that I got to have Strawberry Toaster Strudels topped with frosting for breakfast. It was perfectly sweet with just enough crunch that went perfect with an ice cold glass of milk and apple slices. I never had them at home because they were on the super unhealthy side and I could not (and still can’t) eat them in moderation. I would wake up early and sit alone at the breakfast table while the grownups got dressed and ready for the day. In my Grandparent’s kitchen, there was a little indent in the wall where their was a crucifix and a rosary displayed, and a miniature replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta.

I remembering sitting at breakfast, facing the wall to look at the display and absolutely marveling at it. I thought it was the most beautiful statue in the world sitting right by my breakfast table.  I could’ve stared at the tiny statue forever if I could.  I loved Mary’s beautiful porcelain face mourning for her crucified son. If you looked really closely, it almost seems that Jesus was smiling as he laid in his mother’s arms.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized their was a full size version at the Vatican for viewers to see. I learned more about the incredible artist who created it, and about the damage done to it when it was attacked by a hammer during Pentecost Sunday in 1972, which made me feel absolutely sick.

Ironically, I joined a household at Franciscan University of Stuebenville that has an image of the Pieta on its wall of the common room. We have a small replica, very similar to the one my grandparents had, sitting on the coffee table in the middle of the room, which used to belong to Franciscan’s former president, Father Michael Scanlon TOR, who is the man responsible for growing Franciscan to the university it is today. It sat in his room at the old friary until the new friary was built and he had left Franciscan. He gave the replica to Father Gregory, the household coordinator,  to give to a household who he thought would honor and venerate it.

Every once and a while, during rosary or Lord’s Day, I’ll find myself marveling at the image on the wall or at the tiny replica, admiring its detail and the beauty of the mother and son, remembering the days when I stumbled into the kitchen in my Winnie the Pooh pajamas to eat my breakfast.

In a matter of a few months, I’ll get to see it, live and in person. I’m not one to stand and marvel at a statue or a painting. I’ll glance and look it over, then move on. I don’t know how I’ll react. Maybe I’ll stand there and marvel at it until my group drags me away, or maybe I’ll walk by, take a few pictures, and move on. I don’t know.

I’m not sure where the little statue is that used to belong to my grandparents. It was packed away when my grandma moved out of her house. It could be in a box somewhere at one of my aunts and uncles houses. I never asked the story of where my grandma got it.  I’ll have to remember to when I see her at my cousin’s wedding this summer.

I do know that it’s an image that will reside with me for the rest of my life. It’s something that I want to have sitting in my house someday for my children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren to marvel at. Maybe it’ll speak to them like it spoke to me as a little girl and now, as a college girl trying to get through midterms and anticipating studying abroad in Europe.

When I do see the real thing, I’ll let y’all know what I think…

pieta_[detail-_2]-large

More Info on the Pieta:

Anniversary of the 1972 attack on Michelangelo’s Pieta

The Making of the Pieta

 From Saint Peter’s Basilica