Category Archives: Ask Mary

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4 Things I Learned As A Catholic In College (Part 1)

Last week, I received a question from a reader headed for college this fall.  (Thanks to all who shared their advice on my Facebook page!).

When it came time to write the post, I ended up having more to say than I realized.  So rather than give you one long post, instead I am going to be sharing with you all, over the next few days, some things that helped me grow in my faith while I was in college.

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1. Develop a regular routine, and give your faith first priority in it

When you start college, in a lot of ways it’s like your whole world is resetting. You move to a brand new place, with brand new people, and you have an entirely new set of opportunities to fill your time. It’s exciting, but can also be overwhelming. Developing some semblance of a regular routine will help you feel more like a regular human being, and less like a zombie sustained by Top Ramen and midnight excursions to Taco Bell.

You’re a college student, so your routine doesn’t have to look like that of a monastic. You don’t need to announce to your entire dorm that you’re a Catholic upon arrival.  If you’re being an authentic human being, people will discover your faith is important to you through getting to know you and seeing how you carry yourself.

By routine, I mean eat at the dining hall at regular intervals, join a club, go to the gym regularly. Be a college student! And yes, give your faith first priority in that routine.  For starters:

Mass every Sunday and on every Holy Day ought to be a given. You’re a Catholic—you go to mass on Sundays. It’s simple.  Find one you like and try to stick to that one.  Attending the same mass at the same church every Sunday will help you feel a sense of belonging.  You’ll need that when you’re away from home.

Usually I recommend confession once every other week. I’d actually recommend confession once a week while in college. If you make confession feel as regular to your schedule as dinner, you’ll be less likely to let time get away from you.  If once a week is just impossible, at the bare minimum go once a month.  If you find yourself headed home for Thanksgiving having not gone to confession even once while at school, you may need to reevaluate some things.

Pray Daily—Let prayer be the first thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning, and last thing before bed. Print out the Act of Faith, Act of Hope, and Act of Love and tape them on your mirror. Set a daily alarm on your phone for noon to stop what you are doing and pray The Angelus.  Leave your Bible on your nightstand and read a short passage each night before you go to sleep.  Of course talk with God throughout your day, but also have these concrete moments throughout your day when you turn to prayer.

Having a regular habit of prayer is very important. It will help keep you grounded and focused in your faith.  In college, it will be on you to make room for your faith in your daily life.

Check back for tomorrow’s post: “Your Routine Won’t Save You”

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How To Have A Normal Conversation (…With the Creator of the Universe)

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Scenario: You have a job offer and you’re not sure whether or not you should take it.  You need a little help deciding, so a natural thing to do is to call up a close friend.  The two of you talk it over; your friend helps you weigh the pros and cons, and you get off the phone call perhaps still not 100% certain of your decision, but you feel like you have at least a little more clarity on the matter.

Now, what if instead of calling your friend, you just sent a brief  text: “Have job offer.  Send flowers if you think I should take; disregard if I shouldn’t.”

Crazy as that sounds—is this not sometimes how we approach our prayer when faced with a big decision?

Of course, God is more than just a good buddy with helpful advice–He’s the One who actually KNOWS how things will turn out whether we choose one road or the other.  It would be so helpful if God could just beam down a ray of light illuminating which path we should take at every major crossroad, but often that’s not the way it works.  

The Way It Works:

As my father-in-law puts it: “God is not a cosmic slot-machine.”  Prayer is a conversation!  A conversation with the Creator of the Universe, but a conversation nonetheless.  When you’re faced with decisions, however big or small, God wants to talk with you about them.  How else are we supposed to grow in relationship with God other than talking through with Him our thoughts and feelings?  That brain in your head that is weighing all those scenarios?  God put it there!  And your faculty of reason is one way God talks to you.

Another way God talks to you is through your desires and longings.

“Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart”

-Psalm 37:4

When the above Psalm popped into my head while I was driving one day, I nearly pulled over my car so I could look it up to make sure it was actually in Scripture.  Did God really promise me the desires of my heart?  Isn’t prayer and this whole Christianity thing supposed to be about conforming my will to His?  Of course it is, but the Christian life isn’t meant to be a drudgery of “I’m doing this because God says so.”  It’s supposed to be a joyful union of our will and our desires to the Creator’s, so that we can confidently proclaim with the Psalmist, “Take delight in the Lord, and He WILL give you the desires of your heart.”

You see, our desires and longings are another way that God reveals Himself to us.  And if this sounds controversial it shouldn’t, because it’s relatively simple to keep in check.  If my desires are immoral or somehow not in keeping with the teachings of the Church, then they are not of God, plain and simple.  But, if I am weighing two options— neither of which appear to lead me away from God and His Church—and one stirs a longing deep within me, or conversely, maybe one produces feelings of anxiety or just an overall sense of not sitting right, then perhaps those feelings are God speaking to me.

“Ask A Sign of the Lord your God” (Isaiah 7:11)

If you are at all familiar with my blog then you know that I am all about praying novenas and being specific in your prayer intentions.  Asking for signs isn’t necessarily a bad thing (it’s actually Biblical!).  However, asking for signs is never a stand-alone thing.  God will give you signs, but only in the context of a relationship and as the result of a conversation.  In fact you probably won’t even recognize the signs God sends your way if you’re not in the habit of regularly talking to Him.

So start talking to Him!  Open up the Scriptures regularly to get to know God and to familiarize yourself with His voice.  Spend regular time in silent, personal prayer.  God wants to help us in both the big decisions and the little things—not as some guidance counselor, but as the most important person in our lives.

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Ask Mary: “Why Is It Important to Pray the Rosary?”

Question:

Why is it important to pray the rosary? What is the rosary’s
connection to the Blessed Mother?

Answer:

The image of “Catholic” as an old woman clutching her rosary beads is so ingrained in the mind of our culture that it may surprise you to learn that the rosary is a private devotion.  That means—among other things— that while Catholics are required to do things like go to mass every Sunday, make a good confession/receive the Eucharist at least once a year, and learn their Catechism, Catholics are not actually required by the Church to pray the rosary.  

But don’t get me wrong here.  A Catholic who chooses not to pray the rosary makes a pretty foolish decision—and that’s not just the opinion of some random Catholic blogger.  Many, if not most, of the Church’s greatest saints have preached the importance of praying the rosary as a means of drawing close to Jesus.

“Some people are so foolish that they think they can go through life without the help of the Blessed Mother. Love the Madonna and pray the rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today. All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother.”
~St. Padre Pio

(For a brief historical look into how the rosary was developed, I recommend checking out this article from EWTN: ‘History Of The Rosary.’)

The Rosary Is “the Bible on a String”

In the rosary, we pray the Scriptures. We pray the Our Father as our Savior instructed us.  Again and again we repeat the Angelic Salutation of Gabriel to Mary, “Hail, Full of Grace!  The Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28) And we echo Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, [Jesus]” (Luke 1:42).  As we pray these words we meditate upon the works accomplished by Christ for the sake of our salvation.  We meditate on His birth, His baptism in the Jordan, His first miracle (—accomplished at the request of His Blessed Mother), His Passion, Death, and Resurrection (to name just a few).  In praying the rosary, we meditate upon the Word of God in our hearts while uttering the Word of God on our lips.

And in all of this, recitation of the rosary reminds us that while God most certainly could have accomplished our salvation and manifested His glory by some other means, he chose to give Himself to us through Mary.

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If this is not enough, there is another reason to pray the rosary surely worth mentioning today.  Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady Of Fatima, because it was beginning on this day in 1917 when Our Lady visited three Portugese children in the small village of Fatima, asking them to pray the rosary and perform acts of penance for world peace.  The apparitions culminated in what is now known as “The Miracle of the Sun,” on October 13, 1917—during which tens of thousands of eyewitnesses (many of them non-believers) reported seeing the sun “dance” before their eyes.

One secular newspaper reported:

“…the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws – the sun ‘danced’ according to the typical expression of the people.”

To me, the events of Fatima help to convince that God honors those who pray the rosary.  The sun doesn’t dance without God moving it!  Of course, we don’t need events like Fatima in order to know that honoring Mary is important.  It was God Himself who first honored Mary by choosing her to bear His only Son.  It was Jesus who instructed us with John at the foot of the Cross to honor Mary as our own Mother (John 19:27).  The rosary is a beautiful and powerful way to obey the words of God.

I’ve visited this topic in a previous post, “5 Reasons Why Young Catholics Should Pray A Daily Rosary.”  Check it out by clicking the image below:

5 reasons to pray rosary

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Ask Mary: Would God Really Send Me To Hell For Skipping Mass?

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Catholics: Do you make it a point to go to mass every Sunday and on every Holy Day of Obligation— without exception?

If not, why not?

If you don’t know, our faith teaches that missing mass on a Sunday or a Holy Day of Obligation without a serious reason is a grave sin. That means when you skip mass without a good reason (assuming that you know doing so constitutes a grave sin), you are cutting off the life of grace in your soul, and you need to go to confession in order to get yourself back into the state of grace.

The Catechism teaches that those who die not in the state of grace do not go to Heaven.

That might seem a little harsh. So I was tired and didn’t make it a point to go to mass last Sunday morning. God would really send me to Hell over that? 

(It’s worth noting here that the Church has never stated definitively that any particular individual is in Hell. I say that because while it is the infallible teaching of the Church that missing mass is a serious sin meriting Hell, God alone is Judge, and God alone searches the heart. So we would never say that just because “Jerry” skipped mass here and there that we know he is in Hell—we would just pray for God to have mercy on his soul as we do for anyone else who passes away)

Clearly, our attendance at mass is important to God.  So important that choosing to skip is in fact a sin meriting spiritual death.  The important question we must ask is: Why?

Simply understood: God is God, and we are not. Devoting ourselves to regularly attending mass without exception is one way that God invites us to proclaim this truth with the way we lead our lives. Think about it. Each time we skip mass without a serious reason (e.g. Soccer tournament, too busy hanging out with friends, sleeping in, etc.), it says something about the place we give God in our lives—even if only for that day. Knowing full well that God requires us to go to mass on Sunday, choosing things above that obligation is a kind of subconscious way of telling God we don’t give worship of Him the first priority in our lives. And whether we realize it or not, making the choice to place other things above the worship of God has a direct impact on our relationship with Him.

See, it’s not that God needs our worship. It’s not that He needs us to give up an hour on a Sunday in order to check our time card to accumulate enough hours to get into Heaven.

No, you see God knows that we need Him. We need to regularly offer Him our worship, because without placing Him at the center of our lives, we inevitably will place ourselves there. Our comfort, our pleasures, the false idols we build in God’s place… The mass is where God calls us to Himself. It’s where God invites us to leave our sins on the altar. It’s where God gives us Himself, holding nothing back.

Scripture tells us that if we love God we will keep His commandments. If you’re not already in the habit, I invite you to give the worship of God in the mass the first priority in your life.  (I promise regular attendance at mass will do much more for you this lent than giving up soda or chocolate 🙂 )

I am in no place to judge, but I do believe that for most of us going to mass every Sunday is simple—it just requires a decision. In life, we do what we need to do for what is most important to us. Most of us would rearrange our schedules if it meant lunch with our favorite celebrity.  Well, the God who created us is a much bigger deal than even the most wonderful and respected person on Earth, and He invites us to table with Him every week!  What does it say about the place we give Him when we reject that invitation?

 

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Ask Mary: To Veil or Not To Veil?

I have received a few requests to discuss the topic of wearing a veil to mass. Where the practice came from, why it fell out of practice, what I think of it, etc.

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To be honest I’m a bit hesitant to write about it. For one thing, I don’t feel that I know a whole lot about the matter…

  • I understand it as a beautiful way for a woman to express reverence and humility when entering the space where Our Lord is present.
  • I know that a woman covering her head in church is a Biblical practice (stemming from 1 Corinthians 11), which is a nice bonus.
  • And frankly, I think that veils are pretty and feminine-looking. (Not to mention, a beautiful way to imitate our Blessed Mother!)

I don’t know the canon law behind it. I don’t know why the “requirement” was done away with. And I really have no idea what it was like to grow up or to raise a family in the Church when the mass was only said in Latin and women always covered their heads in church.

Maybe I would’ve loved it. (I like to think that I would have.)  Maybe I would’ve scoffed at being told I “had to” do something a certain way. There’s no way for me to know. I just know that as a 24-year-old woman living in 2014, I can see a lot of beauty in the practice of women “veiling” at mass.

Truth be told, I have only worn a veil to mass on a handful of occasions (another reason I feel under-qualified to be writing this post). Most masses, my “decision” not to wear the veil isn’t so much a conscious choice as it is simply the fact that I am in the habit of not wearing a veil to mass. It always makes me smile to see other women wearing them, though, and I will admit that wearing mine on Monday did re-kindle my attraction to the practice.  I’m thankful for being encouraged by the “Wear the Veil” event to do so.

I will end this post by saying that I think that wearing a veil to mass is a beautiful practice, but I also think that God is much more concerned with what is in the hearts of young women than with what is (or isn’t!) on top of our heads.  (And I believe most women who choose to veil would be the first to tell you that!)

While what we choose to wear—especially to the Holy Mass—is certainly important, I don’t think that the choice of whether or not to wear a veil to mass ought to be something that robs any Christian woman of her peace.  Until canon law tells me otherwise, I’m going to say that the choice “to veil or not to veil” is a decision between you, Jesus, and your spiritual director. 🙂

I shared Jennifer Fulwiler’s post on wearing the veil on my Facebook page earlier this week, but if you missed it I am posting the link here again. I think she does a nice job of summing up the beauty and the reverence behind the choice to veil (as well as addressing that concern women often have of not wanting to “stand out” for engaging in a practice that is supposed to be about humility).

Whether or not you choose to wear the veil (or to cover your head in some other manner), I think it’s worth it for any Catholic woman to seek to understand the beauty behind the practice.

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