Have you ever taken a personality test? They ask you a few questions, and then “reveal” something about who you are…
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Which Color Are You?
The 5 Love Languages (9 million copies sold)
Keirsey Temperament Sorter
Strengthsfinder 2.0 (Wall Street Journal #1 and BusinessWeek #1 bestseller)
I used to gleefully spend hours taking personality tests. Some were even school course requirements. While they can offer some helpful insights, personality tests can also – especially for Christians – distract us from where we should find our identity.
John the Baptist’s Test
In November 2010, I remember walking through the tall grass of the Jordanian wilderness, accompanying my fellow pilgrims to the site of Christ’s baptism. We were privileged to trek there, rather than the typical Jordan River ‘pilgrim stop’ in Israel which is busy and…
Since the last blog post, I did – indeed, miracle of miracles – consecrate myself to Jesus through Mary on November 21.
“SO HOW WAS IT???” you ask.
You know what? It was very ordinary.
I’d had all these dreams (literally) about my Consecration Day: I’d be wearing something beautiful, and I’d stand a few feet from where I’d been baptized, in front of some beautiful depiction of Mary, and my husband would be there to witness it, and I’d maybe cry a little, and get “ALL THE FEELS” when it was done.
Here’s how it actually happened: That morning, I did indeed make a pilgrimage to the church where I was baptized. The church, however, was locked. It was super-humid and raining. My husband and I scurried around the church perimeter looking for Mass, and we found it in a tiny, virtually unadorned Adoration Chapel that I’d never visited. Then, we ran some errands, and I went to work.
After clocking out for the day, I walked down the hall from my office, entered the familiar chapel, and read the consecration that I had written on a plain piece of copy paper. Not a tear was shed. I experienced neither apparitions nor music of angelic choirs.
My thirty-three days of preparation were ordinary.
To top it off: After nearly a week of ‘consecrated life’ (ha), I can confidently say that I feel no additional ‘fuzzy feelings’ toward the Blessed Mother.
I’m extremely grateful for it.
My Marian Consecration was completely driven by my will. In fact, people would ask me, “How’s your consecration [preparation] going?” and I’d answer, “Ehhh… pretty rough.”
Then they’d give me a puzzled look, like, “Aren’t you supposed to be gushing about how great Mary is, and how she’s leading you SO much closer to Jesus, and your whole life is changing for the better, and you WISH you would’ve done this years ago???”
My rough preparation and ‘ordinary’ consecration taught me an important lesson: Emotions are meant to be like the wine of our spiritual lives. I have a hunch that, if my consecration prep / day / aftermath had been a GRAND + exciting!!! + eMoTioNaaal experience — I might’ve lived differently for a good period, and then maybe had a spiritual hangover… and moved on to the next thing.
On the flip side: Uniting our will with God’s will is the water of our spiritual lives; it is essential for growth, nourishment, and development. Obedience is simple and unadorned. It is not fancy or glam. It is very necessary.
True enough: just as at Cana, our Lord can choose to turn our water into wine when we’re in need of it.
But we can’t live on all wine. If we do, we’ll get sick.
When I was just a few days away from Consecration Day, I wrote to my spiritual director. I was genuinely concerned that I had not felt a gazillion warm fuzzies — well, not even ONE. What about — I wondered — all the people I know who’ve done this Marian Consecration already? They seem to speak about it with so much enthusiasm, and they glow when they speak about Mary. I didn’t see any of that happening in myself, in the least.
Father wrote back late at night with these words: “Don’t seek consolation.”
Those words were exactly what I needed to hear. They reminded me of our Lord’s words:
But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. – Matthew 6:33
Maximilian Kolbe’s words also reassured me:
Never worry that you do not feel this love. If you have the will to love, you already give a proof that you love. What counts is the will to love.
So, if your spiritual life is feeling a little bland, don’t fret. Mary taught me that we should first seek water; seek to unite our will to God’s will. At the right time, he will transform the water we provide for Him into the gift of wine; graces of consolation.
Seek first to provide a willing heart; He cannot work miracles without it.
Forgive me for not having written in two weeks. I didn’t forget you. I just needed time to ponder, like Mary, the gift of my consecration.
I’m on Day 13 of my preparation for Consecration to Jesus through Mary. As you may recall, my last blog post was on Day 1. I laugh at the naive lady I was on Day 1.
She had no clue what was coming to her.
Monday, I had a minor operation on my foot. The doctor needed so much anesthesia to get my foot to sleep, I’m truly surprised I can still feel it. Since then, my very unprofessional footwear has been announcing my impending presence at work by an obnoxious slap slide, slap slide.
I can just see our Mother going down a To-Do list for Jesus…
Healthy dose of physical pain – check.
Minor humiliation – check.
Apparently, it wasn’t enough for our Dear Mother to have me begin praying a nightly Rosary (which I consider a miracle already), but for the past two weeks that Rosary has been accompanied by the cleaning and bandaging of my ugly wound. It’s almost uncanny, how she timed all this to last nearly the entire length of my preparation.
Affront to her vanity – check.
Now, if it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. Promise! But I truly had no idea what was coming to me 12 days ago. The foot situation has been the least of my problems. The past two weeks have been physically and emotionally exhausting.
Reasons to keep her from being lazy – check, check, check.
Testing her patience – check.
Extraordinary trials – check.
This school of Mary is no kindergarten. Quite honestly, though, I’m in awe of her. I’ve never seen her signature as clearly as I’ve seen it over the last 12 days.
I feel like I am slightly more than myself. Life hasn’t been easy on me, but Mary has sweetened everything with graces.
That’s a mother, alright.
P.S. Does anyone know who wrote this gorgeous icon?
As you may know, a person is proclaimed “Blessed” (beatified) after a lengthy process which includes a thorough examination of his life and of a scientifically unexplained miracle attributed to his intercessory prayers. With another such miracle, Blessed Paul VI would be canonized as a saint.
I have a story that may not get him canonized, but has testified to his recent intercession in my life.
First, you have to know: I have never had a strong devotion to the Virgin Mary. She has always been a lovely figure, a distant figure, a mystery, in my life. Too pure, too good, too unlike myself. Sure, I’ve prayed the Rosary. I sometimes wear a Miraculous Medal. I appreciate the approved Marian apparitions from around the world – at Fatima, Guadalupe, Lourdes, Kibeho, etc.
But for whatever reason, Mary has never seemed close to me.
For the past few months, I’ve complained about this to my Spiritual Director. (Poor guy.) My spiritual director suggested the book 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley. 33 Days is a modernized version of the original Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary by St. Louis de Montfort.
On my spiritual director’s initial suggestion, I resisted.
He suggested again…this time more of a recommendation than a suggestion. My excuse was our strictly-segmented family budget. It would have to wait for another paycheck.
Had to use the paycheck for other things.
Next paycheck. Ordered the book online.
In mid-September, the book arrived. I psyched myself up, sat down, and read the Introduction. It was all sounding good. I was thinking, “Yeah…I can do this.” Then, Fr. Gaitley includes a chart to determine when one should begin the Preparation process, so as to make one’s Consecration on a Marian feast day.
“WHAT?!” I exclaimed, reading by a nightlight while my husband slept soundly. “I HAVE TO WAIT A WHOLE MONTH??”
Yeah, I had gotten psyched up for – apparently – nothing. I complained, “Lord, I’ve waited all this time, and now you’re making me wait a whole month for this??”
Well, I soon regretted my complaint.
At a staff retreat a couple Thursdays ago, my colleagues and I were reading through Rosarium Virginis Mariae by Pope St. John Paul II. I was not exactly excited about this.
As we read the Introduction, John Paul II says,
Among the more recent Popes who, from the time of the Second Vatican Council, have distinguished themselves in promoting the Rosary I would mention Blessed John XXIII and above all Pope Paul VI, who in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus emphasized, in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, the Rosary’s evangelical character and its Christocentric inspiration.
My boss took this opportunity to mention that Paul VI would be beatified soon. She couldn’t remember the date of the beatification, so I jumped in, “…on October 19.”
We continued reading. Suddenly, two and two came together:
October 19 would be the first day of my 33 days. I would begin my preparation for Marian Consecration on the same day that Paul VI, an exemplary son of Mary, was to be beatified.
Stunned, I shared this with my fellow staff.
“Wow! You’re going to begin with Paul VI!” they exclaimed. We laughed.
I asked the Lord to forgive me. All this time, He had a plan. (Clearly, I have issues trusting in that divine promise.)
So, today I begin walking a Marian road with Blessed Pope Paul VI – a man who was already instrumental in my study and promotion of evangelization & media. I already loved him. Now, he reciprocates that affection from Heaven.
P.S. Did you all catch this special moment? Right at the conclusion of today’s Beatification Mass, Pope Francis looked up at the image of Paul VI and made the Sign of the Cross. As camera pulled away from the image of our newly-beatified Holy Father, a single white dove flew right across the shot. Watch it here.
“Place in this Heart all your sufferings and difficulties. Everything that comes from the Sacred Heart is sweet. He changes everything into love.” – St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
“Never let your heart to be weakened because of a fault committed. Distrust self and trust only and continuously in God, persuaded that not able to do anything by yourselves, you can do all with His grace and powerful help.” – St. Jane Frances de Chantal
“I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” – St. Paul to the Philippians 4:13
The Heart of Jesus is our Nike “swoosh”… only a million times more powerful. Look at all that has been accomplished through this Heart. What obstacle stands in its way?
I believe it was Second Grade when I got my first pair of glasses. They were little plastic frames, almost translucent, but with a hint of purple. I used to be so embarrassed about needing glasses.
The 1990s provided me and my fellow little girls with campaigns about “Inner Beauty” mattering most. So, I began masking my insecurities by pretending that all I cared about were my smarts and my heart.
That only worked until college, when I met someone whose opinion I began to value highly. I remember sitting in the car with him one day and asking him, “Why did you choose me?” — hopefully expecting one of those romantic answers I’d heard in the movies.
After thinking a while, he turned to me and said, “Because I saw your potential.”
I don’t know if it was winter then, but I remember feeling like the whole world had frozen in that moment.
His wasn’t the, “because you’re you!” response that all those Inner Beauty campaigns had led me to believe he’d say.
Yet, I swallowed his words like a bitter pill. Those Inner Beauty campaigners, I thought, didn’t live in my real world, where smart boyfriends with my religion and a good job are hard to come by. He told me I’d be prettier if I wore contacts, so I got them. One birthday, he took me to the mall and bought me makeup. Me; a girl who only sometimes wore chapstick.
There’s more ugliness to this story, but you’re smart; you know what happened to him.
Time passed. I met, and dated, and became engaged to my now-husband. Several times, he encouraged me to wear my glasses at our wedding, and I would laugh. I’d chalk it up to his a.)not thinking about nightmarish glasses glare in wedding photos, and b.)his characteristic “dare to be different” spirit — an admirable quality, but not appropriate in this situation.
I mean, hello: I had to be pretty on our wedding day.
Three years under his influence, though, has been a grace.
This week, I got a pair of glasses that feel like “me”, and I finally understand what Dan wanted me to see three years ago:
It’s not right to cut ourselves in half — an “Inner Core” and an “Outer Shell”.
It’s not right to tell ourselves that one matters, while the other is just a sad coincidence.
I am a person, and my whole being is me.
When I am happy to be myself, I am prettiest.
How many girls need to know that?
I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. – Audrey Hepburn
If your church website doesn’t work, you’ve obviously gotta fix it…
…but have you ever seen a faith-based organization or church use the same templates year after year — not only for websites, but for the bulletin, administrative documents, and even internal processes within parish groups, programs and event planning? Have you noticed that, even though some improvements are needed, no change is made because “we’ve always done it that way,” and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?
My experience working with dozens of Catholic organizations has informed the following opinion: Many people working in Church circles want to see improvements in communication, participation, and loyalty, but few people challenge themselves to improve an existing item, process, or structure.
Maybe Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations isn’t a perfect teaching text for these situations, but I’ve had many conversations with Catholics who are also frustrated about this phenomenon, and our conversations often include this point: Within ministry environments, the lack of perceived 1.) personal gain, or 2.) competition, tends to lead to…
little to no discussion about current pro’s and con’s
little to no consultation of professionals or leaders from outside the community
little to no research of other parishes / apostolates for inspiration and ideas
The general exceptions to these trends are capitol campaigns and major fundraisers. Why? There is obvious financial gain on the line and clear competition for that gain.
“Competition” may have negative connotations — including ill will toward one’s competitor, an unhealthy desperation, dishonest / immoral conduct, etc. — but Saint Paul taught that we should live our faith with such dedication, that we “run so as to win” (1 Cor. 9:24).
How could we settle, then, for “the way it’s always been done,” or “we’re getting by”?
We shouldn’t; it’s downright unbiblical.
Imagine my twenty-year-old self, nervously sitting across from the Creative Partner at an advertising agency near downtown San Antonio. I’d applied for an internship with nearly every agency in town, and this one had been the first to respond.
After a few questions about my personal background and experience, I started to relax. Then, my interviewer asked me, “Who are some artists, graphic designers, or ad agencies that inspire you?”
My brain went blank. Stunned silence.
I’d been trapped in a bubble. Mostly self-taught and primarily interested in Catholic communications, I had never researched commercial marketing, influential graphic designers, or branding campaigns.
Although I was accepted, one of the first lessons my mentor taught me was the importance of researching other successful professionals and projects. I was tasked with creating a competitor analysis chart, comparing our advertising firm to others in our area and the nation.
Dear fellow Catholic communicators, most of us live in a ministry bubble. Most of the people you work with are probably fans of yours, and praise most of what you do — especially if you’re the only graphic designer / desktop publishing pro / video editor / photographer / webmaster / etc., in your organization.
You are in a dangerous situation. Your ministry bubble is contributing to your own high opinion of your work. You aren’t challenging yourself enough. You aren’t comparing your work to other churches’ projects. You aren’t comparing it to what church-goers see in their ‘normal lives’ (at the office, at the mall, on TV, online). Your skill set is falling behind the times, because your technology is ancient, and you’re smugly dealing with it. You have no one to challenge you.
We must rise to a higher level. Here are 5 ways I challenge myself to aim higher:
Subscribe to news websites, blogs, or online journals in your field (outside of faith-based circles). Read them. Find webinars in your field (outside of faith-based circles). Take them. Learn from lectures & podcasts in your field (outside of faith-based circles). Get the picture? Learn from people who are competing to be the best at what you do.