This post comes from Saint Paul’s Outreach (SPO) missionary, Lilvia Gomez. Lilvia took a year to do mission work with SPO after college and found out how much just one year can change your life, thanks to God’s grace!
As a former student of Texas A&M University, I had the great blessing of being part of St. Mary’s Catholic Student Center and all the great formation that comes with it. When I applied to give a year of my life as a Saint Paul’s Outreach (SPO) missionary, I did it because I knew that I wanted to do ministry and that I wanted it to be with college students, since that’s where I great so much in my faith. I didn’t know what to expect since I had no previous experience with SPO and came in cold turkey to training at the end of May 2012. I quickly realized that the work I was beginning was very different from what I had experienced in Texas. I had met the SPO Texas missionaries beforehand, so I knew a couple of people, but mostly was submerged into a completely new Catholic world.
Saint Paul’s Outreach holds many treasures that the Church has to offer, although I had never had very much experience with them. There are many gifts of the Holy Spirit that I have gotten to experience since my time with SPO and I feel as though it has helped me to grow in knowledge of what the Holy Spirit is and how he guides us. Admitting, my first semester as a missionary was very difficult in many ways. I was very homesick, I was working with people I had never known before. I was all the sudden charge of things I didn’t know anything about – it was truly on the job training! But, the girls in my house and the staff were so welcoming and I am so grateful for the way they worked extra hard to make me feel at home. I suppose I had expected to know exactly what I was supposed to be doing and when I was not sure, it really rocked me and I realized I had much to learn.
Reflecting on this second semester, I realize how much I grew during that first difficult semester and how God really worked through that to help make me more confident the second time around. I have been able to enter into mission much more now that I understand it better and I am more comfortable and established here in Columbus. I firmly believe that God asks us to suffer to show us something greater – that’s what life is all about: reaching that something greater! Even though this year has had its ups and downs, I am truly grateful for what the Lord has done for me and would not have it any other way. Like all good things in life, this year has been one big learning process, and I cannot wait to see what the Lord has in store for my second year with Saint Paul’s Outreach!
-Submitted by Lilvia Gomez, Saint Paul’s Outreach missionary
Here we are at the end of Lent. I feel like Lent hardly just begun, and I’m sure many people can relate to this feeling. School, work, friends, family, volunteering, and more to keep up with: life gets so busy that it’s hard enough to carve out time for everything, never mind enter in to our liturgical seasons. However, despite how busy we are, the Lord’s patience and love for us is never failing. As we rush through our lives, trying to get everything done, Jesus is there through the midst of everything, waiting for us, on the cross. He is always calling out for us, whispering love into our hearts. But how often do we take the time to stop our being busy and go to Him, walk with Him? How silly we seem; we are so reluctant to make our bosses or our professors wait on us, but yet we are willing, far too often, to make the King of the Universe wait for us.
Hopefully, through this Lenten season you’ve had the chance to stop having Jesus wait – going to Him and seeking Him instead. If you haven’t taken advantage of this Lenten season to the full, I want to encourage you to not give up yet; the best is yet to come! We are in the richest week of the year (in my humble opinion), the week leading up to the celebration of our salvation, aptly named Holy Week. In this great week, we are presented with the unique opportunity to literally walk through the week with Jesus.
We began our walk with Christ on Palm Sunday, celebrating his goodness and victory with palms. Reflect on how bittersweet this day is. Keep walking through the week with the Lord, feeling the anticipation the next few days bring. On Holy Thursday, taste and see as Jesus lays down his life for us in the Eucharist. Keep watch with the Lord for Good Friday, for his agony, his passion, and his death. On Saturday, reflect on the Lord’s goodness for all he endured, especially through the Holy Week, for our sake, to save us and show His love for us. And rejoice of course on Easter Sunday! How beautiful is our faith and the Church that the very set up of this week invites us in to walk with Jesus through his final days and set aside our busy lives for the greatest drama the world has ever known.
Let us set aside our business, at least for this week, and stop asking the Lord to wait for us, but instead walk with Him.
-Sara Huggett, SPO Missionary Corps and Household Member
It’s been a while since you’ve heard from SPO, and since we last posted we have a new Pope! Let us all share in their prayer for Pope Francis:
O God, Shepherd and ruler of all the faithful,
Look favorably on your servant Francis,
whom you have set at the head of your Church as her shepherd;
grant, we pray, that, by word and example,
he may be of service to those over whom he presides
so that, together with the flock entrusted to his care,
he may come to everlasting life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Recently a friend shared with me the words from a poem she’d seen that was composed as a letter from God:
“I made you a little more lonesome than you would like to be, only because I wanted you to turn to me in your loneliness, only because I need for you to learn to love me and to depend only on me.”
This reminded me how much our Lord loves us and wants us to be close, as God is always close to us. We know God is close to us, always with us, as we say it over and over to others in times of pain and distress, but the powerfulness of that reality does not always hit us. We may look for God in church or in the beauty of nature, but we can also find our Lord in the car during rush hour traffic or at 2am when we’re working feverishly to finish up that paper before the deadline. God is always with us.
And not only is God with us, but God is rooting for us. God wants us close and wants us to succeed. Just as a performer thrives on an audience, so do we thrive in the light of our Lord’s loving gaze. I am reminded of a strange scene before hurricane Sandy hit New York City: I am an avid Late Night with Jimmy Fallon fan (I record it! I could never stay up that late!), but it was almost painful to watch him perform his show in front of empty seats the night before the hurricane. It is the same for us. We cannot shine as we ought without knowing we have the audience of our Lord.
Now, let’s not get down on ourselves for forgetting our Lord is close- it’s near impossible to remember and live in God’s presence due to our fallen nature. But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Especially during this Lenten season, we must remind ourselves of God’s nearness. I recently listened to CD that a friend had told me about that expounded upon this idea of God’s eternal presence and our need to remember and spend time with our Lord. The CD was a workshop given by a Carmelite nun who provided numerous ways for us to keep God in mind. She talked about a priest who, whenever he had an encounter with a person that evoked an emotion, whether it be joy, sorrow or frustration, would say “Welcome, Jesus”. This was a simple way to remember that our Lord was there in that person, calling him to love, regardless if it would be easy or difficult to love.
This sisters also pointed out something beautiful in the Bible about God’s presence. She talked about how God says “I am with you” or “I will be with you” dozens of times in the Old Testament. This in itself is comforting. Our Creator loves us so much that a promise is made to never leave us. However, she also said that these phrases are not mentioned, save for one time, in the New Testament. This may seem disheartening initially – has our Lord abandoned us? Not so! God feels no need to remind us of this nearness as God is physically with us, in flesh and blood, as Jesus. What a gift!
I pray we remember this gift at every opportunity, especially as we grow closer to our Lord’s Passion. And I thank God for being with me now, and with you as well, until the end of days. Amen!
-submitted by Sarah Deak, SPO volunteer
Today’s post is a short reflection composed by SPO Household member and Student Missionary, Kara Shockey.
When I fell, I fell hard. I had set myself up on this pedestal and loved myself. I didn’t need anyone else. I was happy seeing how great I was, how great I was at everything I tried to do. I was my own god and I didn’t even know it. But then He knocked me off my feet. At first, I didn’t know that is was Him who was working. Something made me look at myself, I mean really look. I saw myself not as this wonderful person but as broken, cut up, loosing so much of myself. I saw around me a pool of blood, a lake of tears, and a path that only lead to worse. My stomach turned inside out, I wanted to be sick. Whose blood was that? Whose tears? They couldn’t be mine. I was fine. I was fine. That is not the path I’ve been walking. My path has been clear and easy…right?
Tears start to fall and my stomach keeps rolling. It gets harder to breath. I don’t know what to do. How could I have tricked myself? How could I not know what I was doing to myself? It slowly dawned on me that blood does not just appear, it is a result of a wound. Suddenly, fire. Anguish I had never known. I look down and the source of the blood becomes clear.
Long cuts, seeping gashes, deep gouges appear in my skin. Fear sets in as I think I am going to die. The fear overshadows the pain. I rush to try to stop the blood. No, no this isn’t right. How is this happening? More blood rushes out each time I try to staunch the wounds. Why is this happening? As it becomes clear that there is no hope to stop the blood, the pain comes back. I notice again the tears I am crying. At first they were tears brought on by the loss of a dream. Now they are tears brought on by pain and fear. I don’t want to die. I am too young, I have too much left undone. I fold into myself, feeling lost and alone, and simply cry.
That was where He found me. I didn’t hear Him walk in. He didn’t say anything. The first thing I noticed was His hand on my cheek. I looked into His eyes and was lost. I was surrounded by light and warmth that I had forgotten while I was stuck in my hell. In His eyes I saw calm waters, clear skies, deep passion, and fire. His eyes were frightening but soothing, like the sweetest balm and the harshest sunlight. I couldn’t look away from Him. We sat like that for a long time. He held my hand and put His other hand on my cheek while I just stared. It was what was behind His face. The care, the compassion so clearly present. No human has ever looked at another like He looks at you. When He looks at you, you know that He is seeing so much more than your face. He sees everything about you. In one glance He could see your past, present, and future. But He doesn’t just glance. He lingers. He keeps your eyes until you can see everything He is seeing. When I saw how He saw me, it was as if a sudden blast of wind came flying towards me. It was exhilarating. Then He laid my hand on my heart, His hand over mine. He said, “Breathe.”
It wasn’t a command. It was a request begged. “Breathe.” Please, have the life I have given you. Please just breathe.
I breathed. I took one shaky breath in, and another. That exhilarated feeling got stronger. I began to feel like I could do anything. I felt like this moment between Him and me could never and would never end. Nothing was more satisfying than those breaths. No food, no wine, no earthly pleasure could have come close. It was the feeling of being perfectly complete.
But then, He moved away. He took His hand from mine and stood. I didn’t want Him to go. Every inch of my being called out for Him to stay. I didn’t say anything but He turned as if I had cried out. The look He gave me was heart wrenching. It was as if someone punched me in the stomach. All my breath, all that satisfaction was gone. He had that look you see in the eyes of a man who is about to do something no one else will understand. Something that makes absolutely no sense except to the one doing it. I wanted to stand up and grab Him and hold Him and never let go. But I found I couldn’t. Even though I knew beyond a doubt He loved me and wanted me. I could not follow Him.
I saw Him loose everything. I saw Him fall. Yes, I fell and I fell hard. But His fall was worse. He, He who should never for any reason be brought to His knees, fell three times. He was beaten, broken, dishonored, insulted, hated, condemned. I watched as He bore all the evil that should have been directed to those serving it out. I watched as He, who was about to die, comforted those who mourned Him. I cried until I couldn’t breath. I cried until I couldn’t see through the tears.
HOW COULD HE? HOW could He? He shut His eyes and I fell apart. I fell to my face, into the blood that was becoming a mix of mine and His as His blood leaked down from the Tree. It was warm and sticky and wrong. I jolted up. I had no right to touch His sacred blood. No right. Who was I but a low, abase sinner. Who was He but my King, my Master, my Lord? I pushed across the floor as far from the cutting sight of that blood as I could. I pulled my knees to my face and cried. What was left to me? What was there to live for?
I am not sure how long I stayed like that. I knew I didn’t want to look around. I didn’t want to see the face of my warden. I didn’t want to see him relishing in his triumph. He disgusted me. How could you rejoice? How could you not be affected? Such innocence was slaughtered grotesquely and yet he laughed. Yes, he laughed. A cold sweat broke down my back because for the first time in my life, I had no hope.
I wanted to explain it away. To pretend it never happened. Maybe if I just closed my eyes, it would fade away into the awful world of nightmares. There to haunt but not to hurt. Tears still leaked from my eyes. The feeling that my heart had shattered into thousands of millions of shards. That I could never be whole again. I wanted it all to fade. To just go away. To leave me. I wanted nothing more than to lose my mind to the grief and just go numb. Why did I have to ache? To hurt? Why could it not pass away?
As I sat in my anger, hurt, and pain…I seemed to hear a whisper. A small voice calling. I thought it must have been my imagination. It was simply my desire to not be alone finally overwhelming my sense and madness was setting it. It was tempting. I wanted to slip into madness and just loose myself. But I couldn’t do that. He died. Forgetting was the most dreadful insult I could have committed. So I ignored the whisper. I sank deeper into darkness.
What I heard in that whisper was simple. It was a word I had heard a million times. It was my name. More than that, it was my name spoken by Him whom I had lost. I opened my eyes and there He was. What? Yes, there He was. Beaming at me, radiant with life. Tears came again (would there be a day I never cried), but this time they were tears of bliss. Tears of absolute exhilaration. I slowly reached out to touch Him, but quickly drew back my hand. I looked at it expecting to see blood, scars, and filth. Instead, I saw that I was glowing almost as much as He was. The scars were gone, the blood vanished. I stood in wonder trying to think back to when this change occurred. While I was puzzling, He grabbed my hands.
My eyes were pulled to His by some unknown force. He held my hands and I could feel that they were incomplete. As I looked into His eyes, my fingers found the holes in His hands. Only because I was looking into His eyes did I not fall back down. He grabbed my hands, led them to His side. Again, I was unprepared to recognize the wound I felt. But as I looked in His eyes, there was nothing but unassuming and unconditional love. He was showing me His love. When He had come to me in my Hell, I did not believe Him. I wanted to love Him but could not. I had been shackled. He was not going to let His love be unanswered. He was not going to leave me chained.
He left me in Hell only to redeem me. Only to break the chains that kept me from loving Him. The price, these wounds. As the full impact of the wounds hit me, I wanted to faint. Overwhelmed with emotion, new tears appeared. As I started to weep, again, He wrapped me in His arms. In His arms, I felt whole for the first time. It wasn’t joy, it was wholeness. A wholeness I didn’t even know existed until that moment. In His arms, I felt unbroken. All those pieces that I had cut out or that others had taken away or that I lost watching Him die, all came back. I never wanted to leave. Never wanted to lift my head from His chest, never wanted to stand on my own again.
But I had to. He raised my head and looked at me again. He had asked me to breath before. To accept the gift of life He had given. This time, as He looked deep into my heart, He breathed over me. This Breath was power. It was more than simply His fragrance. It was Himself in another form. This Being flowed through me. He took ahold of every nerve, every sense, and burrowed deep into my heart. He sat silently while He who was holding me said, “He is with you now and forever. I will wait for you. But now, go with Him. Walk with Him through this world and free others. I need you”. How do you say no? That Breath caught fire within me. He gave me strength. I let go of Him and yet He was with me. For that split second, I had a tiny, minuscule idea of what He was. Then He who had died and rose again left. He, the Fire in my soul, stayed.
He stays still. Even as I talk to you, I feel Him stirring. He has never left me, just as He promised. Sometimes its easier to feel Him than others, it is not the same as when He held me, but sometimes it is dang close. He stays with me, He strengthens me. Sometimes I get to be with both Him in me and Him whom held me. Those moments are never long enough. But those moments make the rest worth living, those moments keep me fighting, those moments are my life, those moments are the reason we are talking.
That is how I fell. I pray you do not fall as hard. But I pray you do. I pray He finds you and catches you by surprise. He will if you let Him. He is searching for you even now. Just open your eyes.
-submitted by Kara Shockey, OSU Student Missionary
Sara Huggett, in her second year in household, asked friend and housemate, Maria DeRoo, who is in her first year of household, to reflect on her experiences so far. Here’s a little peek into life at one of the OSU women’s households.
Sara: Hi Maria. Thanks for talking with me today. Can you tell me a little about yourself for our readers?
Maria: Hi, I’m Maria DeRoo. I’m 20 years old and a second year Psychology major at The Ohio State University. I’m from Fairfield OH near Cincinnati. My favorite saint is St. Elizabeth and I love music; singing it, listening to it; playing flute.
Sara: How did you come to get involved with SPO?
Maria: I meet Terry, Jillian, Kara and many other awesome women last year, while I was a freshman. They were awesome woman and invited me to a couple of events. Jillian would often text me to invite to things or to just hang out.
Sara: What continued to attract you to SPO?
Maria: The love that everyone showed to one another. I especially loved One Gospel – the talks were always what I needed to hear that week. The community was so inviting.
Sara: What attracted you to live in Household? Why did you choose to live here?
Maria: The call to be holy and to live with people who wanted to grow in holiness. I also loved hearing about a group of college students that wanted to bring Christ’s love into this world and shared their daily lives together. I choose to live in Household because I wanted to be with people who were striving for more out of life, who were striving for the Lord.
Sara: What’s your typical household day like?
Maria: Typical day is lengthy, but usually I follow this pattern: I wake up for morning prayer around 6 am and go to the breakfast table with a bunch of women who are half asleep yet still wanting to be awake to praise the Lord. Morning prayer starts at 6:30am and goes until around 7. I get ready for the day and leaving the house between 7:30 and 8am. I take time for my daily prayer, then studying a bit before several hours of class and work. While traveling between places I like to say decades of the rosary. By the time my last class is finishing I’m heading to daily mass. After mass, I have dinner and then attend whatever event is planned for that evening. Finally, I take time before bed to read some sort of book, the go to sleep.
Sara: In what way has living in Household helped you the most?
Maria: Living in household has helped me to examine my life. Now I have really pray through why I do things that I do. It has made me into a better Maria, more like how God created me.
Sara: What’s been your favorite Household memory so far?
Maria: How to choose a favorite!? I think the best times have been our Monday night dinners because it’s the seven of us just sharing what we’re struggling with, where we’ve found our joy, and just laughing and growing together.
Sara: What are you looking forward to the most in the second half of the year?
Maria: Just seeing what God has in store. He has blessed me with so much the first half, I can’t wait to see what is to come!
Sara: How do you think your experiences in the Household community will influence your life after graduation?
Maria: I want to be around all these awesome people! I would want to live with someone who is striving for holiness, someone to keep me accountable, to share meals with, to pray with. I would want to have even a bit of what I have been able to experience here.
Sara: Anything else you’d like to add about SPO, Household, or life in general?
Maria: I have loved living in Household. I continually tell my mom that I could not imagine myself anywhere else. This is truly the place God meant me to be. I see His greatness in all the people I’ve met in the community: the women with their open, loving hearts and the men with the willingness to be a great man of God.
-submitted by Sara Huggett, SPO Household member