A New Job, An Unexpected Blessing

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By Leo

About a month ago, I begin working at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Not only was it a new job, it was a total career change. For about 9 years, I had been in the financial services industry working as a financial advisor. Although I enjoyed the opportunity, I decided it was the right time to make a change.

I expected the move to be a big change and a huge learning experience; however, other than that, I really didn’t know what to expect. I came in blind, open to wherever the new opportunity would take me. I anticipated that I would just figure it out as I went along but what I didn’t anticipate is the unexpected gift that is forming.   Let me explain.

CUA shares a campus with The Basilica of The National Shrine of The Immaculate Conception. Whew, I know that’s a mouthful. Basically, the Shrine is the largest Catholic Church in the country and is an absolute treasure of the Church. In fact, on his famous visit to the U.S. last year, Pope Francis gave the canonization mass of Saint Junipero Serra on the grounds of the Shrine, which is essentially on the CUA campus as well. Really cool stuff.

Prior to starting at CUA, I wasn’t very familiar with The Shrine. On my first day of work, I realized that the Shrine is only a short 3 minute walk from my building.   I quickly decided to do my best to visit and pray in it daily.   Almost immediately, as I was wondering around the lower floor of the Shrine, I discovered the Crypt church and numerous Crypt chapels. What drew me instantly were my senses. They are visually beautiful, the incenses burning are very distinctive, and the acoustics are angelic.

Although it has only been a short time, my daily rosary routine in the Crypts of The Shrine has been powerfully fruitful. I have always struggled with knowing how to pray, what to pray for, and developing a routine. Thankfully, I have made bigger breakthroughs in the last few weeks, than I had in the last few years combined. This was totally unexpected, and I am optimistic that I can continue to build on this practice.

Maybe it’s the sensual appeal of The Shrine, maybe it’s working at CUA, or maybe it’s just a combination of timing and place. Whatever it is, I believe God is teaching me how to pray better, how to just relax into his presence.  I am anything but a prayer guru nor do I intend for this post to be a comprehensive tutorial on prayer, I simply hope to share some of my recent experiences.

The first thing that has been helpful is to focus on my breathing. When I first start to pray, I am so self-absorbed and my mind is racing, ruminating over all the demands and anxieties of the day. Focusing on my breath, my inhale, exhale and the switchover between the two, has been amazing in helping me to relax, clear my mind and be present.

My goal here is to recognize God’s presence, to do my best to not think of anything and to trust God is there. I try to remember it is not about me grasping for God; rather, it’s about recognizing He is already there. As the Catechism teaches, God endlessly pursues us first and we need only to respond to His endless pursuit.

Another important practice that has helped is to not put so much importance on praying for what I need or want, at least not at first.  In the past, my prayer was much more defined by my list of “asks” rather than trust and quality time. Now, I focus on trusting that God already knows what I need better than I can even articulate it. This has helped me to be less distracted and more peaceful during prayer, gazing more towards God instead of myself. If I do pray for anything specific, I typically wait until after my rosary is completed. Usually, doing this helps me to clearly prioritize specific intentions, and to identify the prayer within the prayer.

In a similar vein, as I am praying the rosary, as my mind pulls towards things that I think I need to ask for, I do my best to resist and to refocus myself back to my breathing. Coincidentally, usually by the third decade; instead, of having all these scattered and undeveloped “asks” of God, I can see more clearly what I need to pray for. I call this “the pray within the prayer.” For example, when I begin the rosary I might set out for help with all the obligations and responsibilities I sense that I need to fulfill. However, as I work myself through the rosary, I feel like rather than helping me to find a way to do everything, He gently reveals to me what matters most. What’s most important and what I am just spinning my wheels on. By the end of my time in prayer, I am typically focused on one thing for that day that I really need God’s help with.

In addition, to having a racing mind that endlessly seeks to distract me from prayer I also struggle with time. Either leading up to prayer or while I am praying, it is not uncommon for me to feel like I am just too busy with too many things going on to have time for pray. In the past, this impulse has caused me to either put off prayer altogether or to feel hurriedly distracted during prayer. More recently, I’ve worked on changing my distorted perception of time.

Even though I am busy (everyone is busy!), I have enough time for prayer. In fact, I don’t have enough time not to pray. A day, a year, my whole time on this earth is too short not to communicate regularly with God. I use to tell myself that I would develop a strong prayer routine when things slow down or when I have more time. What I now realize is that regular prayer time is a lot like saving money. If my savings strategy is to save whatever is left after all my bills and expenses are paid every month, I typically save very little or nothing at all. However, if I save first before a lot of my discretionary expenses, and build my budget around my savings goals, more gets saved. Prayer is similar, when I leave my prayer time up to chance, hoping I’ll have surplus time or energy, it typically doesn’t get done. I’m learning to give prayer priority time not surplus time. I’ve found that if I build it in as part of my routine, as a priority before other things, I am much more likely to get it done and to do it as best as I can.

When I am in prayer and I feel rushed, I try to remind myself that prayer determines time not the other way around. As Peter Kreeft writes in his article, Time, “We think time determines prayer, but prayer determines time. We think our lack of time is the cause of our lack of prayer, but our lack of prayer is the cause of our lack of time.” In my experience, this is true. As I have been developing a better prayer life, unexpectedly it seems like I have more time to get things done. After I walk out of The Shrine, sometimes it actually feels like time is slowing down. I know there is the same amount of time in the day as before; however, I believe God teaches me how to use it better when I spend part of my day with Him first.

Let Go and Let God

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By Rachel

Perhaps I’m writing this blog post as a form of prayer in search of the clarity I need to make a choice about something that has very recently been offered to me. And by recently, I mean today. Maybe I’m hoping that somehow through these words that I write, I will discover God’s message and be able to unify what I think in my mind with what I feel in my heart.

Day after day, we pray for things that we hope God will grant to us sooner than later. Sometimes it’s a prayer for a relationship that we hope will grow. Sometimes it’s for the health and well-being of someone we love. Sometimes it’s a prayer for truth and peace. And sometimes, as it is in my case, it’s a prayer for a career opportunity and change.

I am a firm believer that God has a timing for everything and even though I may not recognize it immediately, all the struggles I face, the hardships that I endure, the choices I have to make and what I mistake for unanswered prayers have all been a part of the Lord’s perfect and beautiful plan. A plan that we want even a tiny glimpse of; a plan we want to help devise and take credit for; a plan that can be terrifying to walk down when filled with all the “what ifs” and “maybes” that live in the doubts of our minds. But at what point in our lives do we simply let go and let God? When do we eventually trust God wholeheartedly without one iota of fear and hesitation? When is it time to surrender to His will?

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Why Do I Have To WAIT!?

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By Janean (Guest Writer)

Why do I have to WAIT!?

What feelings do you get when you are told you must “WAIT”?

Without even realizing it, I feel annoyed, frustrated, and impatient. Sometimes, straight up angry. I will admit, that I desire and love instant gratification, and am used to a comfortable, easy life where you can do and have just about anything you could ever want whenever you want it.

I am currently in a season of waiting. I am engaged to a man who is 6667 miles away because I am a Navy nurse stationed in Sicily for two years. I met my future husband a year and a half ago, after already committing to take this overseas tour. I have had many moments where I have felt wronged by God, where I have questioned His timing, and where I have felt that our circumstances are unfair.

With each ebb and flow of emotions, I am continually drawn back to the question, “Why is God making me wait? What fruit comes from waiting?”

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Catholic Identity

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By Jeremy

Growing up as an Evangelical Christian, there were various expectations, values, and faith wickets one had to fulfill in order to be considered a good Christian, whether implied or explicitly stated.  Generally speaking, since Evangelicals and Protestants tend to stay away from faith “to do” checklists, most of this was implicitly weaved into the natural fabric of life, just like any other community.  There was, however, an element emphasized almost all of the time: the importance and value of evangelizing others.

From a very young age, it was overwhelmingly accepted that evangelization was a way of life.  Now, this didn’t mean we went door to door preaching the gospel (although, yes, this could happen, too) but many times manifested itself in inviting others to church, inspiring Christ centered conversations at work, and in general, aspiring to be “witnesses” to non-Christians.  It didn’t hurt that many of our churches had veritable rock bands for worship music, and generally maintained a “cool” feel that appealed to the aesthetic pallet of a 21st century teen or young adult. Continue reading

God Gives Abundantly

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By Sebastian

God gives abundantly, even when you don’t deserve it.
For those of us reading this blog, I’m sure many of us can answer the question “Do I believe in God?” with a resounding Yes! But if I were to ask “Do you believe in God’s infinite power and grace?” Let that sink in and you might realize that’s a bit tougher to answer so confidently. It could be because of our own pride, our skewed priorities, or our inability to comprehend something so extraordinary that makes it difficult, and while I am still guilty of those three things let me use my own experience as an example of when I really started to believe and experience God’s abundant grace.

About two years ago as the supervisor for the fitness department at the YMCA I undertook the biggest task in my career as we opened up a brand new facility 4 times as large as the original one I was working at. The amount of staff and responsibilities I was in charge of increased ten-fold and because of that, so did the stress. I would regularly wake up in the mornings with a rushing heartbeat filled with anxiety, I would nervously look at my emails and phones expecting some bad news from work, and when I went home I would still be wondering what I had forgotten to do. Work had completely taken over my life and for someone who tries to live a balanced lifestyle, I was out of whack and paying dearly for it. My relationship with my now fiancé was suffering, my social life had disappeared, physically I was getting weaker, thinner (yes even thinner than I already am), and lucky if I even got six hours of sleep. My health was deteriorating to the point I was even losing some hair! The other thing that was hurting was my spiritual life. I still went to church on Sundays but that was about it and even when I went to mass I’ll admit I was often thinking about my to do list at work. Continue reading

A Reason for Our Hope

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By Marie

Last week, Fr. Sebastian walked up and joined one of our small groups on Wednesday evening. I asked if he had any wisdom he wanted to share with us, but he said he left it all in the other room. (And then I asked if he had any non-wisdom he wanted to share.) He just listened for a little bit, and then when there was a bit of a lull, he posed a question to us (in his dry hilarious way) that I’ve been thinking about a lot since: “Why do you bother coming here?” Some of us had ready answers, and for some of us it was an opportunity to take a step back and think about our reasons, or how we would articulate them. Why this church, this faith, this God? Why not something else? He went on to remind us of what Peter said in Scripture: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” (1 Peter 3:15).

This past year, my boss has been challenging all of us to take a deep look inside of ourselves, and find our “why” for what we do. This “why” philosophy is based on a book…. Don’t remember what it is, but it’s probably pretty good. If I have a reason for what I’m doing, I’m going to love what I do, probably be pretty good at it, and it’s going to be fulfilling and life-giving. But if I don’t have a reason, why bother? Continue reading

A Story to Share: Part 1

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By Anthony

To tell you all the truth, I was a little hesitant when Rachel asked if I would be interested in contributing to the Words of Witness blog. Mostly because I have never written anything outside of essays and papers for classes, none of which I would consider “blog-worthy”.  I befriended some of the regular bloggers in the St. Brigid young adult community and often drew inspiration from their posts. To join them as a contributor seemed like a large feat. But if there is anything that I was confident about, it is that God tends to speak to us through others.  So I asked Rachel if I could pray about it and get back to her. She agreed.

The following days of prayer affirmed that God was calling me to move past my initial doubt. There was something that He wanted me to share with our community, but what was it? And then it hit me: there is a story He wants me to tell.

If you have known me for the last year or so, you may have an idea about where this post is headed, but you most likely don’t know many of the details; the kind of details that make a story worth telling. And that is because I failed to share the full experience with most of the people in my life. Perhaps we talked briefly about it and you may have even followed my Instagram account, but there is a story that a short conversation or filter-enhanced pictures just cannot capture. And for whatever reason, I failed to tell it. Perhaps it was because I was unsure how a wide audience would receive it. All I know is that God called me on the journey last year, and now He is calling me to share it with all of you. Continue reading