Praying out of our poverty

41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living.”
Mark 12: 41-44

the poor widow

        I’ve been praying with this verse for a while now. Something about this story resonated deep in my heart and as I began to explore it further, inviting the Lord to teach me, I was given the eyes to see myself as this poor widow.

My life has again changed substantially in the last few months, and adjusting to this change has had its ups and downs. I spend countless hours studying and doing school work each day outside of the classroom. It is exactly what I expected in terms of the work load, but unfortunately, I have struggled to maintain a consistent prayer life. I wrestle with this idea every single week, and more often than not, I feel guilty for not spending more time in the church, or praying more of the Divine Office each day.

You see, as a missionary, I spent upwards of 4 hours praying in the church each day, and it was easy to be reminded of Jesus throughout the day because my whole work was centered on talking about things of Faith with students and parishioners. I was “giving out my abundance”.

And while I was working at the PT clinic, I had much more control of my schedule — I perfected my daily routine to a science, and was blessed with the opportunity for lots of prayer time throughout my day. Again, giving out of my abundance.

Now, I’m in grad school, and every single day looks different. From the amount of time I’m in class to the amount of studying or reading I have to do outside of class– no two days are similar. I’m sure many of you can relate when I say that this makes it very difficult to maintain a consistent prayer life. Just like an athlete needs a regular training routine, so do we in our spiritual life. Not having a daily routine is like trying to swim upstream in Jell-o.

But, the Lord in his abundant generosity, has been teaching me about offerings with this beautiful Widow. Because sometimes I fall under the world’s spell that tells me “bigger is better” or “more is better”. But this isn’t true when it comes to Jesus. It is easy to let ourselves be convinced that our small offering of prayer won’t make any difference for our spiritual life. “If I can’t do a full Holy Hour, I might as well just not go at all, right?” WRONG.

Although my current state in life doesn’t allow for spending hours in front of the tabernacle each day, I am still called to make an offering. My offering of worship may seem small in comparison to what I’m used giving, or compared to what some of my friends do each day. But this doesn’t change the fact that I still have an obligation to give of myself in this relationship with Jesus. Now, I am simply called to give to the Lord out of my poverty. My poverty of time and energy and even poverty of spirit, some days.

This small offering is celebrated by my King, and so I shall not despise the fact that the gift itself is small. It matters to Jesus. I cannot withhold my gift of self to Him simply because I wish it were more. God sees my heart and knows my ability to give.

It is also important, that while I struggle through this each day, I remember that God doesn’t need my prayers or my worship or my love. I give these things to God because I need to honor Him and worship Him and love Him. My prayers don’t add anything to His greatness, but they certainly make me more aware of His greatness.

Like the widow, I am not excused from sacrificing myself for Jesus. And just like the widow, the Lord favors my offerings, despite their littleness. I must learn how to offer my work as my gift to Him, sharing with Him the little moments of my day; offering myself to Him during the anatomy lectures and journal article reviews. I have to be okay with letting these things be my two small coins for now.

If you are struggling this summer in keeping to your prayer life, start small. Don’t sell yourself short by comparing your prayer life to anyone else’s! (On the flip side, don’t give too little and make up excuses for it either!) Be confident that the Lord sees your efforts and rejoices. Continue giving of yourself, and fight those temptations from the world that tell you that if you can’t give all of yourself, why even give a little?

Keep the Faith!

“She, out of her poverty, has put in everything she had, her whole living.”

This is my body, given up for You

This is my body, given up for You.

This Lent, let us learn how to say these words with and for Jesus.

I’d be willing to bet that most people, Christian or not, are familiar to some extent with the story of the Last Supper and Jesus’ crucifixion. And we know, from the Gospel accounts that it was painful. And brutal. And violent. And redemptive.

We know that Jesus said the words “This is my body, given up for you” at the Last Supper with His apostles. And after that, He offered His body on the cross for our ransom. He paid the price of our sin with His Blood, a price that we should have had to pay. He conquered death through His death and rising, and He did it all out of love.

But, in order for all this to make much sense in the context of this post, I need to back track to before Jesus was born.

Let’s flashback to the Annunciation. The Angel Gabriel comes to tell Mary the news that she will be the Mother of the Son of God. After the shock of the news dissipates, she responds with “Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy Will.”

Or, to paraphrase: “Yes God, I will offer my body in sacrifice to bear your son. I will nurture Him in my womb, and I will carry out your plan of the Incarnation through my very own body. This is my Body given up for You.”

I like to think that Jesus learned those words from His mother. He learned how to offer His body in compliance with the Father’s Will through the example of His Blessed Mother.

The Lenten season is a time for us to unite our sacrifices to theirs. It is a time for us to learn how to say with Jesus and Mary: “This is my body, God, given up for You.”

Now, obviously, the vast majority of us are not called to be brutally crucified or martyred. And Mary already filled the role of bringing Jesus into the world through her bodily sacrifice. So how can we possibly say those words with them?

We are called to do it through the little annoyances of our day, by small acts of self-denial and by pouring ourselves out DAILY for the sake of the Gospel.

The Lenten sacrifices we make should lead us to those words.

  • When we find ourselves hungry on fasting days, craving meat on Fridays, or desiring to have whatever thing we gave up for the 40 days – it is those times that we are able to say “I really want ______, but instead, this is my body, given up for You, Lord”.
  • When we find ourselves exhausted at the end of the day, but a family member calls and really needs some encouragement, we can say “this is my body, being poured out for You.”
  • When we find ourselves desiring to stay in bed and continue snoozing the alarm in the morning, let us instead say “this is my body, getting out of bed for You.”
  • When it’s extraordinarily cold outside and we find ourselves tempted to complain about how much we hate the cold, instead we can say “this is my body, given up for You.”
  • When a lonely coworker asks to eat lunch with us, but we’d rather eat lunch alone, we can learn to say “this is my body, given up for You and Your church.”
  • When we find ourselves being skeptical as the homeless man at the stoplight asks for some food or spare change, let us instead say “this is my sacrifice, being poured out for You, Jesus.”
  • When we experience sadness, or suffering, or disappointment, let us learn to say “be it done unto me according to Your Word.”

Hopefully, the more we deny ourselves those little things, and the more we unite those self-denials with Christ’s, the closer we will grow in union with Him.

And if you are struggling to say those words with Jesus, try saying them with Our Lady at the Annunciation.

“This is my Body, given up for You//Be it done unto me according to Thy Word.”
[Luke 22:19//Luke 1:38]

"This is my body, given up for You"

“This is my body, given up for You”


Mary, at the Annunciation

Mary, at the Annunciation

Ditch your pride. Grow your joy.

San Fernando Cathedral

San Fernando Cathedral

“You don’t have to wait for life to be perfect to be able to take joy in it!”

I heard this quote a few weeks ago in a homily given by Father Mike Schmitz. The words stung me in that good kind of way that words sometimes can when I heard them. They stung me in the kind of way that nudges a person to spend more time reflecting on them.

Here’s a confession: I am terribly guilty of waiting to rejoice. I am the president of that club, actually. And it would be easy for me to blame it on circumstance, or culture, or even my generation. But I cannot.

I am a perfectionist. A passive perfectionist, at that. I wait for things to magically fall into place, and when they don’t, I get upset. I don’t even take a proactive approach in my own perfectionism. And I am a procrastinator even when it comes to my own joy. Oops.

But, how is this relevant to the spiritual life?

Well, one only needs to look so far as the liturgical season of Advent to understand.

You see, Advent is a four week-long season of preparation, of patient waiting. Waiting for the Christ child. But we pause for one Sunday so that the Church can remind us to REJOICE while we wait! On that third Sunday, we celebrate Gaudete Sunday – a joyful celebration in anticipation of what, or rather, WHO, is to come.

Because what is waiting without joyful hope?

Anyone in the history of humanity can tell you that there is an “ebb and flow” of life, the “hurry up and wait”, the “mountains and valleys”, the “ups and downs” or whatever other metaphor you may use to describe those seasons of life.

As a 24 year old woman, I can attest to this personally. I look around and see all of this potential my life has; all of the beautiful directions it can go it, and all the hope I have for the future. But right now is a kind of “Advent” period as I await God’s plans to unfold in my life. I find myself unhappy sometimes as I wait. I get restless as I wait for the next “mission” or stepping stone of my life to be laid. And it’s easy to fall into the temptation of grumpy despondence every day.

But God is constantly reminding me that He is the God of the present. Of the here and now. And He wants to meet me in every moment of everyday. And in that divine meeting each day, He wants me to take joy in Him, in the simple ways He asks me to fulfill his Will each day, in my daily blessings and in the people I encounter every single day.

I get frustrated sometimes when I look out and see that my life isn’t where I wanted it to be at 24. But I am reminded that it is where He wants it to be. And then I rid myself of that sin of comparison that likes to creeps in.

So maybe I don’t have an established career yet. And so what if I’m not married? And who cares if all my friends from college are already starting their families? Because God has invited me to love Him today, and to let myself be loved by Him today. And I choose to love Him and let Him love me. And why wouldn’t I take joy in that? Why wouldn’t I rejoice heartily in that simple truth?

So what if I am still waiting to pursue the next step of my educational endeavors? And who cares if I don’t feel “settled” and “established”? Because the God of the Universe has showered me abundantly with grace and mercy and forgiveness and blessings beyond measure. And that’s cause for celebration!

The world throws this ideal at us to have it all together and follow the yellow brick road to “happiness” as we progress in age. But God’s Will triumphs the demands of the world. And sometimes He wills us to wait. But never without joy.

Mother Teresa says that “constant cheerfulness is a sign of deep interior mortification”. This may come as a surprise to you, but I have not yet attained that level of mortification. Being cheerful is a choice. It requires a bit of effort on our part. It means meeting the struggles of the day with a spirit of joy.

It should be noted that there is a difference between joy and happiness. Allow me to quote a stranger.

“Joy seems to be a part of an unconditional wish to live, not holding back because life may not meet our preferences and expectations. Joy seems to be a function of the willingness to accept the whole, and to show up to meet whatever is there. It has a kind of invincibility that attachment to any particular outcome would deny us.”

See, joy is a freedom; a choice to greet every circumstance and situation with docility and cheerfulness regardless of the outcome. There is so much liberty in being detached from the outcomes and expectations we project onto every event of our lives. Don’t fall into the despair that the world offers you. Jesus is offering you opportunities to rejoice, even when things don’t appear “perfect” yet!

Whether you are a recent college graduate awaiting the next big adventure, or a 13 year old on the brink of lots of changes, or a 65 year old staring down an unfamiliar road, rejoice as your life unfolds. There is really no other way to live.

Loving when loving is hard


I’ve been acutely aware, lately, of how the Lord has surrounded me with amazing family and friends; so many tangible encounters with love; love that is beautiful and liberating and comforting and hard; love that purifies and fortifies.

  It is easy to recognize all of this goodness when things are peaceful, when relationships aren’t demanding of us, when tension is lacking in our life. But the minute things get hard, or people upset us (or we upset people) – that goodness becomes much more difficult to notice.

   We all have them. Those relationships that challenge us, that try our patience and our charity. Maybe it’s a family member, or your spouse. Maybe it’s your boss or your coworker. Maybe it’s that grumpy old man from your neighborhood. Regardless of who it is, there will always be someone in our life who is difficult to love.

  So what do we do?….avoid them? Have as little interaction with them as possible? Find a new family or a new spouse or a new job or a new neighborhood?

  As much as our culture might try to convince you otherwise, NO.

  We are called to love, even when loving is hard. ESPECIALLY when loving is hard.

   I read a quote recently that said there is no such thing as “true” love. At first glance, it took me aback but the author went on to explain that the phrase “true love” is repetitive. For love to be love, it must be true. If it is not true, then it is not love.

    Recently, after a rather difficult and trying couple of months of intense personal struggle and change, I learned this lesson of love at the most basic level. I had to reacquaint myself with authentic communications of love, rooting out the ways that I had learned to fake love. It was challenging and purifying. Meanwhile, my prayer grew more intimate and my heart was stretched. The Lord was revealing to me a tiny little piece of His heart, of His pain, of His love! Jesus, in His infinite mercy, allowed me to more deeply understand His love for me (and the whole human race). He will never stop loving me. How long will He love me? Until eternity because He is love. He loves me when my thoughts and actions grieve Him, when my behavior robs Him of the glory He deserves! He even loves me when I don’t love Him back. Despite the lack of reciprocation, He loves.

   I was created in that very image and likeness, so my natural inclination should be to love in that same way, but unfortunately because of the faults and mistakes of ourselves and others, we are conditioned to love with restriction, to love with inhibition, to love when it is convenient or easy or “feels right”. But that’s not love at all. Love isn’t a feeling, or an action performed out of habit. Love is a willful and deliberate outpouring of one’s self for the sake of the other.

   Why am I writing all this? and what does this have to do with you?

   Because I think sometimes each of us (especially myself) need to be reminded of our purpose and our ultimate vocation, the reason why we were even created. We are called to a vocation of love. We were created by Love, out of love, for love. We are not asked to “love” as the world loves – selfishly and conveniently. Instead, we are called to love as the The Lord loves – wholly, and selflessly.

   Ask Jesus, in prayer, to open your eyes to see people the way He sees them, that you may love people the way He loves them. Ask Our Blessed Mother to help you find the good in every single soul you encounter, that you may give them a heart full of compassion and charity as she did. 

   Be generous with your love, rather than with your negativity and hatred. Always remember the Lord’s generosity of love towards you and allow that to propel you into an outpouring of love for Him and all the people in your life! 

Love is the very process of passing over, of transformation, of stepping outside the limitations of fallen humanity – in which we are all separated from one another and ultimately impenetrable to one another – into an infinite otherness. — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI


What’s the point in honoring Mary?

Catholics and non-Catholics alike ask me all the time: “Why Mary? Why is she important? Why do you honor her?”

It’s actually one of my favorite things to talk about (besides maybe my nephew or music and sometimes puppies), so I love giving answers to those questions!

I used to ask the same questions, until about two years ago when it all began to finally click. Not in some doctrine-y kind of way, or some extraordinary sensible experience. But, rather, in a way that can only be explained through my prayer, as I began noticing a transformation taking place within my very own heart.

So, why Mary?
Well for starters, God chose her. You see, God could have sent His only Son into the world in a myriad of different ways: descending on a cloud, angels lowering Him down, or perhaps, He could have just appeared one day as a grown adult ready for public ministry. But nope. God sent Jesus as an infant, through a woman; and not just any woman. He chose Mary.

Out of all the women who had already lived and all of the women who were yet to be born, God chose Our Lady as the Mother of Jesus. Shouldn’t we, too, choose her for ourselves then?

Many of our great saints agree that the most assured route to get to Jesus is through Mary, since Jesus came through her to get to us.

She is the new Ark of the Covenant. She is the archetype of the Church. She is the model of virtue, perfected. She is the Queen of Heaven. She is the Mother of Christ and she is our mother, too!

What a gift to have this perfect, Blessed Virgin as our model and guide. A woman who was fully human. A woman who knows what it means to live a life entirely for God, with God. A woman who teaches us self-surrender and floods our heart with God’s grace, always interceding for us as we journey towards Heaven!

Mary said yes to God. Her “yes” still resounds even today. Imagine, for a moment, (or a lifetime), the depths of that fiat. When I picture the scene of the angel Gabriel appearing to inform Mary that God chose her to be the Mother of His Son, I am blown away EVERY TIME at the trust and courage of the young girl. She uttered words that would change her life, and ours, forever! “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Her life, as she knew it, was never going to be the same.

And when she said yes, she didn’t know what was going to happen next. All she knew was that God had asked her and that He would take care of her. She didn’t know how, and she didn’t know why He chose her. But He wanted her. She was able to place complete trust in the Lord and give of herself in a most radical way.

My struggles in saying yes to God pale in comparison to the fiat Our Lady gave. Some mornings I don’t want to wake up at 6:20am to go to Daily Mass. But I know God wants me there. Some days I find it hard to love the people around me. But I know God has called me to love them unconditionally. Some days I want to stay in pajamas all day instead of going to work. But I know God doesn’t want me to give in to slothfulness. Some days I don’t want to give God an hour of my time in prayer after a long day at work. But I know He has patiently been waiting for me to visit Him all day.

These situations seem quite trivial. But, in fact, they are tiny little ways that God is asking me to say yes to Him every single day, when my will wants to triumph over His.  Thankfully, I have the Blessed Virgin as a perfect example of how I should respond in these moments of temptation. She teaches us by her example of self-denial and self-gift, how to give ourselves to God, even when it might be difficult, or scary, or against what we think we want for ourselves.

Just as we would seek comfort and advice from our earthly mothers, Mary fills that same role for us. Her immaculate heart longs to lead us to her Son, to the foot of the cross. And who knows Jesus better than His own mother? Who better as our guide to Him than the woman who knew him most intimately on Earth?

The first Church, the first Tabernacle, as you gazed down upon your Son, you were gazing into Heaven. You gave your body up for God and your Son did the same. Teach us, Blessed Woman, how to imitate this, to say with you and Jesus: “here is my body, given up for you, Lord”. Teach us how to lay down our own wants and desires, in order to fulfill the Lord’s perfect and Divine Will for our lives.

People, let us live our lives in a way that makes our Momma proud, in a way that brings joy to her and glory to her Son! Let us be saints!

Our Lady

A Lesson: The Lord’s ways are so far above our ways…

If you don’t know this already, allow me to share a little fun fact:


Now, this really shouldn’t need a whole lot of explanation, but because I’m stubborn, Jesus had to show me this over the course of 23 years. Hopefully, it won’t take you that long.

You see, human beings (for the most part) enjoy structure; we like knowing what the next part of our plan is so that we can begin executing it. It gives us a sense of security. We cling to our ambitions and our dreams, and we strategize how to make them into a reality.

But we often forget a rather significant piece of the puzzle: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future full of hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11


The Lord already designed a PERFECT plan for us, a plan that will make us happy; a plan that will allow us to prosper and grow. And He wants us to know what these plans are, so that we can fulfill them! All we have to do is seek out His perfect Will!

Easy, right?

Well…sometimes, we are (I am) stubborn. And I like to do things my way. And I like for things to work out the way I want them to.

And when they don’t? I get upset. My perfectly strategized plans have failed. I must have made a mistake in the execution. Something went wrong. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

But here’s what I’ve learned in my very little experience.

Those “mistakes”, those “failures”, those “let-downs” & “rejections”, the plans where the course was re-routed… was the Lord at work, because He knew of something better. He was rerouting me to Himself, to His plans and His perfect will.

Flashback to my senior year of college. I had planned 6 years for my future, my career. Everything was lined up perfectly. Strong GPA. A million observation hours in PT clinics. Solid GRE score. Amazing letters of recommendation by several physical therapists in the area. And my application to Physical Therapy school was complete. I sent it off and all that was left to do was wait. Wait for the next step of my journey to begin!

Except…what happened next was never in my plan. I never calculated this part or factored it into the drawing board.

I did not get accepted to the DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) program. All of a sudden, all of those aspirations and dreams of mine came crashing down in a flood of emotion and sadness. It seemed that all of my hard work and preparation was for nothing. What was I supposed to do now?

I often refer to this time in my life as my “junior life crisis”. All the drive and ambition I had before was washed away with all the tears I cried. I had no plan B.

But, Jesus had something more amazing planned. I was offered a perfect job at a pediatric physical therapy clinic and thus began the unraveling of the Lord’s beautiful way.

Flash forward a few months to my first authentic encounter with Our Lord in prayer. It was an experience that changed my life completely. And before I knew it, I was falling head first into a most romantic relationship with Jesus, a relationship where He truly became the center of all my thoughts, desires, & actions. My whole world changed. I quit my job. I became a missionary.

After serving as a missionary for a year, I can look back on those experiences in college and post-college, to see how the Lord was truly at work. Especially in that rejection, in that “re-routing” if you will. It was an opportunity for me to finally make the Lord my number one priority, instead of all of my own desires and plans. It was a chance for me to recognize the silent ways the Lord was working in my life and respond back to Him in love. It was an invitation for me to finally chose Him over my own self-fulfillment.

I am back in Louisiana discerning the next part of this beautiful love story with My King, and I can see how He made EVERYTHING work together for good. His ways are truly above our ways, His thoughts are so much higher than our thoughts.

So, remember! The next time you feel disappointment when your plans don’t go as you hoped, or something feels like a failure or a rejection – keep in mind that the Lord knows all things and He has plans for you to prosper!

isaiah 55 ARP

Why this title?

I chose the phrase “Opened Side and Stricken Heart” as the title for my blog because it calls to mind for me the undeserving love I receive from Love Himself; the way He poured Himself out for me on the cross. But not just on that day. He pours Himself out for us EVERY SINGLE day in the Mass. John’s Gospel tells us “but one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out” (Jn 19:34). This would be completely disheartening to all believers if the story ended here. Thankfully, Jesus instituted the Blessed Sacrament the previous night. On the night before He was to suffer on the cross, He established the Eucharist at the table with His disciples. He did this in order to perpetuate the great sacrifice of Calvary for all eternity.
We read in Matthew’s Gospel: “Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26: 27-28). Jesus, Himself, tells us that the blood which He will pour out for us on the cross is the blood of our marriage covenant with Him, the absolution for our sins which comes from His very side.
How terribly undeserving we are of this unconditional mercy flowing from the heart of our Savior; a God who saw the brokenness of the world and came to redeem it, not out of anger but out of love. His Most Sacred Heart looked with compassion on us, and because of this, He covered us in the blood of His pure sacrifice, in order that we may have life eternal with Him.

The tagline “verso l’alto” is a phrase that is frequently attributed to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frasatti (much more on him later). It is an Italian expression that literally means “to the heights”. Blessed Pier Giorgio is known for saying these words often, as he was an avid mountain climber, but more importantly, it became symbolic of Pier Giorgio’s earthly life – a constant striving to reach the summit of eternal life. Below is a picture of him climbing a mountain, where he inscribed the words “verso l’alto” to the back of the photograph. I love this expression so much for many reasons, but mostly because it embodies the kind of attitude all of us should have as we journey toward eternal union with Christ, persevering ever forward TO THE TOP of the spiritual heights! Verso l’alto, my friends!
blessed pier giorgio